Obama's gambit -- his turn again on Tuesday.
My father taught me chess -- and the way he always won was by his opening gambit. Perhaps that is why I see through President Obama's debate gambit. In chess, a gambit is when a player sacrifices material with the hope of achieving a resulting advantageous position. When my father played a gambit, I often got so excited that I leaped for that tempting pawn, got overconfident that I was ahead in pieces captured, and then he crushed me.
Obama is a masterful politician -- and he probably would be a chess master if he put his mind to it. Most of the polling showed that Obama sacrificed the first debate. Blogger Andrew Sullivan rhetorically asked, "Did Obama Just Throw The Entire Election Away?" He claimed Obama was arrogant, bored, self-destructing, not even trying to win. Donna Brazile said Obama was "a little rusty." Comedian Jon Stewart said, "There is no red America and there is no blue America. There is only the America that can't believe how bad (Obama) did in the debate." Bill O'Reilly said the president came off as a boring college professor.
How right -- and wrong -- they all were.
I will explain.
In the days leading up to the debate Fox News and other right-leaning media had resurrected the 2007 Hampton University video of President Obama speaking at the historic small black college. And on Oct. 3, 2012 the day before the first presidential debate, conservative media was pounding home the idea that Obama was a race-baiting demagogue, and intellectually and stylistically no different than the fiery Minister Jeremiah Wright.
On Oct. 4, 2012, before 67.2 million viewers, Obama provided irrefutable evidence that he was not.
And that is the Obama gambit. He killed that "race baiter" narrative completely. The fantasy of the angry vengeful black man was replaced forever -- before millions -- with the actual "boring college professor." And his boringness was repeated ad nauseum on Fox News, MSNBC, the print media and elsewhere.
Masterful? Of course.
Obama has much more to fear from being defeated by his race -- "food stamp president" -- than by his boredom. Obama masterfully got Fox News off message. They forgot that a boring college professor is a lot more palatable than a fiery black angry preacher. And Obama got two weeks of mileage attesting to his boring style, his wonkiness, his "professorialism."
As my father knew, while I was being suckered into celebrating the victory of the extra captured pawn, he was busy planning my defeat. The game is not won or lost within the confines of the first gambit -- or first debate -- the game is how you delude your opponent, set up to game for your ultimate victory.
And Obama has setup the presidential chess game perfectly. Mitt Romney apparently has newfound enthusiasm for his candidacy because of his first debate "victory." According to the Associated Press, crowds are surging as GOP enthusiasm builds ahead of Election Day: "Romney's debate performance against President Barack Obama last week -- and his energetic appearances following it up -- have fueled a rise in enthusiasm on the campaign trail."
I expect Obama will do now is deliver on a carefully calibrated strategy: defeating Romney in the presidential debate on Foreign Policy. He knew that this is a winner for him and all Democrats. And it will be big because foreign affairs and the military in particular has been the Democrats Achilles heel for a very long time. But this is Obama's sweet spot -- he killed Osama bin Laden -- and he ended the war with Iraq and has been fighting for veterans' benefits for a long time; he even ended DADT. He and Michelle Obama have redefined how the Democrats are viewed by the military and on foreign affairs entirely.
As Obama moves in to win the entire game, Romney and the Fox News crew and right wing media have all been helping him in reversing their own race baiting image -- just as he planned with the opening gambit sacrifice.
Obama will win this election -- he and the Democrats will win big. Or as happened once in my attempt at the gambit in a game with my father, I sacrificed the queen instead of the pawn, and lost. Was the first sacrifice a queen or pawn? As former Governor Byrne said this week at a philanthropic dinner in Plainfield, N.J., in his imitable way -- he knows who will win in November -- the person who gets the most votes. The endgame is on.